For many bikers there’s no better adventure than a motorcycle tour in Europe. You get enormous variety of roads, and stunning scenery. Most places have less traffic than the UK, so riding is more fun, and safer.
But there are differences, so we’ve put together some great suggestions from bikers who’ve been there and done it.
Oh, and now there’s Brexit. That must have thrown a spanner in the works. Or has it?
Brexit Bureaucracy, Licenses And Visas
While the politicians are haggling, your existing passport works just like it did before. You don’t need a visa to visit member states of the EU. If you go further afield those rules change, but we’re only talking about European motorbike touring in this article. You should carry your passport at all times as proof of identity.
If you have a photo license, that’s good everywhere too. If you’ve got an old green paper license, and don’t want to update it, you need an International Driving Permit. For most, the update is easier.
What will happen in two years time when all the Brexit bickering has stopped? Who knows. You might need a visa, but even if you do they’ll probably be easy to get. Tourism is an important source of income for most European countries.
If in doubt, check the government’s foreign travel advice pages.
European Motorcycle Laws
Things like speed limits vary from country to country – you can check the BMF’s web page for a full list.
Other European laws for motorcyclists aren’t so clear – and sometimes even well-meaning advice is incorrect. Many people think carrying breath-test kits is compulsory in France. It isn’t (there were plans, but the law never came into force). You do have to carry a reflective jacket – but you only have to wear it if you’re at the scene of a breakdown or accident.
Crash helmets are required right across Europe. Riding with your lights on is often the law. Some places you can ride between rows of stationery traffic but in Germany it’s illegal.
Alcohol limits are stricter in most countries than in the UK. A general rule is that one beer or one glass of wine is OK. A better rule is to wait until you’ve parked up for the night.
If you get caught riding over the limit they will take you to jail. Straight away. No excuses. If you get pulled for other traffic offenses you’ll likely get an instant fine – and in some countries they’ll take you to a cashpoint to get the money!
Don’t let that put you off. Motorcycling in Europe is huge fun, just make sure you know the rules of each country you want to visit.
Insuring Your Bike – And You!
If you’ve got fully comp insurance you should be legally covered for riding your motorbike in Europe, but check anyway. Some companies only offer the absolute minimum and you might not be covered for theft. Check how long you’re covered for. Policies vary between 60 and 180 days per year.
If you’ve only got Third Party, Fire and Theft, you probably need additional cover.
You should get an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), plus travel insurance. Your EHIC is free and covers some medical expenses – but not all. Many countries only offer part payment of treatment. It certainly won’t cover getting you home if you’re unlucky enough to bust a leg, and flying you back from a foreign hospital will cost you thousands if you aren’t adequately insured.
Stay Safe, Come Home Smiling.
There are a few other things that are kind of obvious, but worth mentioning.
•Make sure your bike is in good nick.
•Pack waterproofs, it rains in Spain sometimes 😉
•Get proper fitted luggage. A rucksack will prove uncomfortable over long distances and can cause increased injuries if you drop your bike.
•Check if there are any apps for bikers worth putting on your phone.
•Check the internet for advice from other bikers who have toured the part of Europe you want to visit.
That covers the important basics, but always check specific details yourself – particularly when laws might be changing, here and abroad.
Don’t be put off though. There’s nothing quite like sitting on the banking at the Dutch GP in Assen, riding the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria, crossing the Millau Viaduct in Southern France, or….
There is so much to discover touring Europe by motorcycle. Once you start they’ll have trouble keeping you home.
Link for BMF speed limits page: http://www.bmf.co.uk/advice/touring-advice/european-speed-limits/
Link for government’s travel advice pages: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice